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Who/when was the first completely RAF AOC/AVM?

I am curious. MRAF Trenchard came up in another thread I was reading about, and it occurred to me that all of the RAF's officers (and indeed airmen) at the outset were ex-Army or ex-RN. This must have been true for a long time, for the senior officer ranks. Trenchard, Salmond, Slessor, Tedder, Portal, Harris, Sholto Douglas, Park, Cochrane, Leigh-Mallory, Dowding, they were all ex-Army or ex-RN.

Defining "Senior Officer" as AOC/AVM/2*, the earliest I can see that an officer achieved that rank having originally joined the RAF and never been in the Army or RN wasn't until about 1940 with the likes of Sir Basil Embry.

Did any make it in the 30s?
 
I am curious. MRAF Trenchard came up in another thread I was reading about, and it occurred to me that all of the RAF's officers (and indeed airmen) at the outset were ex-Army or ex-RN. This must have been true for a long time, for the senior officer ranks. Trenchard, Salmond, Slessor, Tedder, Portal, Harris, Sholto Douglas, Park, Cochrane, Leigh-Mallory, Dowding, they were all ex-Army or ex-RN.

Defining "Senior Officer" as AOC/AVM/2*, the earliest I can see that an officer achieved that rank having originally joined the RAF and never been in the Army or RN wasn't until about 1940 with the likes of Sir Basil Embry.

Did any make it in the 30s?

I don't believe so: I reckon your call of Embry is a pretty good one.
 
Might be worth punting this Q out on the Mil board of PPRuNe. There are some anally-retentive codgers on there who may have a definitive answer. Just don't mind the smell of stale wee.....
 
Might be worth punting this Q out on the Mil board of PPRuNe. There are some anally-retentive codgers on there who may have a definitive answer. Just don't mind the smell of stale wee.....

I was only mildly curious, the obvious inference is that the RAF for the first 20 years or so would have been led by people who had their formative experiences in the other two services. It wouldn't be until those 20 or so years had passed, that they could start to form their own habits.

I can just imagine how this question would go down on PPRuNe, and it would somehow be the Army's fault, and we should have tried harder at school or something, so I shan't bother. We have enough historians and turncoat crabs on here to get a good view of it :)
 
Air Cdre Sir Nigel Norman was a AOC before Ember (I think).

He was in the Army in WW1, but didn't fly. He joined the Aux AF in 1926.

 
Air Cdre Sir Nigel Norman was a AOC before Ember (I think).

He was in the Army in WW1, but didn't fly. He joined the Aux AF in 1926.


AOC yes, but as an Air Cdre /1*. Embry became a 1* AOC later than Norman (Mar 42 v Jan 42), but was promoted AVM/2* in Jun 43 (by which time Norman was dead (May 42)).
 
These two

 
This is a bit tricky because of two things. One: how do you define 'AOC'? An Air rank officer in command of a formation (Nigel Norman) or in command of a properly constituted Group (i.e. No. 1 Group)? Two: I don't know the correct answer and what follows is a piecing together of information which is, I think, largely correct...

Using the baseline that the holder of the post didn't serve in the First World War as aircrew, but we do allow them to serve in the Army or RN, then the first chap is a bloke called Trenchard... He though, did fly himself around every now and then (to the terror of his passengers) and was never an AOC per se.

If we use the term AOC but have no aircrew service, this gives us Sir Edward Ellington. Although he joined the RFC, he spent the entire war as an RA Staff Officer and his first RAF command was as AOC Middle East in 1922. In which case he wins (and went on to be CAS without ever holding Flight, Wing, Group or Area/Functional Command).

If we work on the a basis that the individual had no prior RFC or RNAS experience at all, but they did serve in the Great War, then I think Nigel Norman is the answer. He, though, commanded 38 Wing, rather than a Group, which was the normal understanding of AOC. The problem is that the terminology is a bit lax in the early days of the war; we're talking about an Air Rank officer commanding a formation and thus being dubbed Air Officer Commanding, even though he's commanding a Wing at the same time that there were Groups in the Middle East being commanded by Group Captains. 38 Wing didn't gain group status until after Nigel Norman's death.

If we use AOC to mean someone who was commander of a properly constituted Group or area command, the answer is Don Bennett.

He became AOC of 8 Group in January 1943 - but as an Air Commodore. His second star didn't arrive until December 1943, to make him the same rank as other Group commanders and to avoid his being ignored by them because they didn't like their rather brash subordinate.

If we mean AOC, Group Commander (or equivalent) and with 2* rank, it's Harry Broadhurst, who took over as AOC Western Desert AF at the end of January 1943; he was then followed by Basil Embry, who became AOC 2 Gp in June that year as an AVM (spending much of the rest of the war pretending to be a Wing Commander called Smith and flying on Ops...)

If we're using the metric of an Air rank officer commanding any sort of formation while in Air rank, I think it goes, Norman, Bennett, Broadhurst, Embry. I think....

ETA - Broadhurst did spend a couple of months in the TA, but this was with the connivance of the CO - Broadhurst was too young to join the RAF without his father's permission, but his family was an Army family and Broadhurst senior was not keen on his son joining the RAF. Rather than wait until he was 21 to try to get in (when he didn't require his father's permission), Broadhurst joined the TA, gained his commission whereupon his CO recommended him for consideration for a commission with the RAF (which, in those days, required almost all officers apart from some specialists, to be aircrew, even if - like Ellington - they never flew an aircraft on a regular basis again, if at all, after gaining their wings).
 
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This is a bit tricky because of two things. One: how do you define 'AOC'? An Air rank officer in command of a formation (Nigel Norman) or in command of a properly constituted Group (i.e. No. 1 Group)? Two: I don't know the correct answer and what follows is a piecing together of information which is, I think, largely correct...

Using the baseline that the holder of the post didn't serve in the First World War as aircrew, but we do allow them to serve in the Army or RN, then the first chap is a bloke called Trenchard... He though, did fly himself around every now and then (to the terror of his passengers) and was never an AOC per se.

If we use the term AOC but have no aircrew service, this gives us Sir Edward Ellington. Although he joined the RFC, he spent the entire war as an RA Staff Officer and his first RAF command was as AOC Middle East in 1922. In which case he wins (and went on to be CAS without ever holding Flight, Wing, Group or Area/Functional Command).

If we work on the a basis that the individual had no prior RFC or RNAS experience at all, but they did serve in the Great War, then I think Nigel Norman is the answer. He, though, commanded 38 Wing, rather than a Group, which was the normal understanding of AOC. The problem is that the terminology is a bit lax in the early days of the war; we're talking about an Air Rank officer commanding a formation and thus being dubbed Air Officer Commanding, even though he's commanding a Wing at the same time that there were Groups in the Middle East being commanded by Group Captains. 38 Wing didn't gain group status until after Nigel Norman's death.

If we use AOC to mean someone who was commander of a properly constituted Group or area command, the answer is Don Bennett.

He became AOC of 8 Group in January 1943 - but as an Air Commodore. His second star didn't arrive until December 1943, to make him the same rank as other Group commanders and to avoid his being ignored by them because they didn't like their rather brash subordinate.

If we mean AOC, Group Commander (or equivalent) and with 2* rank, it's Harry Broadhurst, who took over as AOC Western Desert AF at the end of January 1943; he was then followed by Basil Embry, who became AOC 2 Gp in June that year as an AVM (spending much of the rest of the war pretending to be a Wing Commander called Smith and flying on Ops...)

If we're using the metric of an Air rank officer commanding any sort of formation while in Air rank, I think it goes, Norman, Bennett, Broadhurst, Embry. I think....

ETA - Broadhurst did spend a couple of months in the TA, but this was with the connivance of the CO - Broadhurst was too young to join the RAF without his father's permission, but his family was an Army family and Broadhurst senior was not keen on his son joining the RAF. Rather than wait until he was 21 to try to get in (when he didn't require his father's permission), Broadhurst joined the TA, gained his commission whereupon his CO recommended him for consideration for a commission with the RAF (which, in those days, required almost all officers apart from some specialists, to be aircrew, even if - like Ellington - they never flew an aircraft on a regular basis again, if at all, after gaining their wings).

Very much appreciated, especially the clarification of the question through the answer!

What I really meant was ”AOC, Group Commander (or equivalent) and with 2* rank”.

Thus it would be Broadhurst, if it wasn’t for his TA service.

If we exclude Broadhurst on the basis of his TA service, It looks like Embry and then Bennett. Or have I misread that?
 

napier

LE
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Inspirational leadership there
#belonging.

They are both good blokes.

391D0819-E1FD-4E0E-8C9C-2DECE08ACAE1.jpeg
 
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